MENTAL CASES by WILFRED OWEN
Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight? Wherefore rock they, purgatorial shadows, Drooping tongues from jaws that slob their relish, Baring teeth that leer like skulls' teeth wicked? Stroke on stroke of pain,---but what slow panic, Gouged these chasms round their fretted sockets? Ever from their hair and through their hands' palms Misery swelters. Surely we have perished Sleeping, and walk hell; but who these hellish?
---These are men whose minds the Dead have ravished. Memory fingers in their hair of murders, Multitudinous murders they once witnessed. Wading sloughs of flesh these helpless wander, Treading blood from lungs that had loved laughter. Always they must see these things and hear them, Batter of guns and shatter of flying muscles, Carnage incomparable, and human squander Rucked too thick for these men's extrication.
Therefore still their eyeballs shrink tormented Back into their brains, because on their sense Sunlight seems a blood-smear; night comes blood-black; Dawn breaks open like a wound that bleeds afresh. ---Thus their heads wear this hilarious, hideous, Awful falseness of set-smiling corpses. ---Thus their hands are plucking at each other; Picking at the rope-knouts of their scourging; Snatching after us who smote them, brother, Pawing us who dealt them war and madness.
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|Author||Owen, Wilfred (1893-1918)|
|Copyright||The Estate of Wilfred Owen. The Complete Poems and Fragments of Wilfred Owen edited by Jon Stallworthy first published by Chatto Windus, 1983. Preliminaries, introductory, editorial matter, manuscripts and fragments omitted.|
|First line||Who are these? Why sit they here in twilight?|
|Publication source||The Complete Poems and Fragments of Wilfred Owen|
|Publication editor||Stallworthy, Jon|
|Digital repository||The First World War Poetry Digital Archive|